The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called for a full disclosure of the facts surrounding the killing of Bin Laden to determine legality of the operation. This call has been echoed by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
This underlines an important principle: human rights are fundamental and even people like Bin Laden should expect due process.
No doubt Bin Laden was a thoroughly nasty character who has claimed responsibility for the death of thousands, I have no sympathy for either his cause or his methods, but basic principles of justice need to be respected. Ideally, the team should have attempted to capture Bin Laden alive and then put him on trial. If he was killed accidentally in a shootout, then it is acceptable but the assassination, which is another term for extra-judicial killing should not be condoned. This is why the UNHCR needs to investigate the circumstances of his death.
It is easy to say that terrorists, or for that matter, criminals have no rights. The question is who determines if someone is innocent or guilty? If the authorities start prejudging guilt, what starts to happen is that suspects, rather than criminals start getting punished and a suspect could be anybody: anyone could make a false complaint that so-and-so was responsible for such-and-such a crime.
In order to ensure justice is available to everybody, certain principles need to be observed at all times. William Blackstone's formulation "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" is what law should be based on. It is, as Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney-General of India remarked during a debate on this subject, what marks a civilised nation.